Posted by: Dawn Langton | 2008/07/11


My son was thought to have tumour at the base of his spine. After investigative surgery and tests he has now been told that it is bilharzia, which he must have picked up in Africa a year ago. Is it usual for this to occur in the spine, I thought it as liver and bladder? How can this be treated? Where is the best place for us to seek treatment?

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Bilharzia is caused by a parasite that enters the skin usually on the foot area and agressively migrates to other parts of the body. Spinal involvement is not uncommon. Occasionally central nervous system lesions occur: cerebral granulomatous disease may be caused by ectopic S. japonicum eggs in the brain, and granulomatous lesions around ectopic eggs in the spinal cord from S. mansoni and S. haematobium infections may result in a transverse myelitis with flaccid paraplegia.

It can be treated with a single oral dose of the drug Praziquantel. While Praziquantel is safe and highly effective in curing an infected patient, it does not prevent re-infection by cercariae and is thus not an optimum treatment for people living in endemic areas. As with other major parasitic diseases, there is ongoing and extensive research into developing a vaccine that will prevent the parasite from completing its life cycle in humans.

The best place to seek treatment, is at a neurologist.

Kind regards

Dr Anrich Burger

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